Here’s a little inbound marketing secret – great content without a content distribution strategy is nothing more than words on a screen. Jonathan Perelman, former VP at Buzzfeed and now Head of Digital Ventures at talent agency, ICM Partners, put it best: “If content is king, then distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.”

The Three Distribution Channels

You have many content distribution options at your disposal, and success requires selecting the ones that will both reach and effectively engage your audience. There are three kinds of distribution channels: owned, paid, earned. Before you start creating content, establish a strategy that outlines which channel you will use in any given situation. Here are some tips that will help guide your strategy development:

  • Paid content distribution platforms help you grow your audience to new heights and include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Outbrain, which start free, but allow you to “buy up” through sponsoring. Of these, Facebook has one key advantage over the others – it has compiled a massive amount of data on its users, which makes it possible for you to target a very precise audience. This makes it the best combination of targeting and economy. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is still considered the gold standard for reaching high-value targets. While you may obtain more clicks on other platforms, LinkedIn connects you with quality customers you are unable to find elsewhere. The only downside? You pay a premium price for them.


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  • Earned content is comprised of communities (Medium, LinkedIn Groups) and forums (Quora, reddit), as well as guest posts and podcasts. In other words, you don’t pay for space, you earn it. Earned distribution focuses on producing high-quality content that contains embedded links and is then placed within relevant online spaces. The goal is to gain links back to your own site from quality sites that Google and other search engines deem rank worthy. Of the three distribution channels, earned media is the most credible, but you do not maintain control over it.
  • Owned (or internal) content is published on a channel you create and control, such as blog posts, whitepapers and eBooks; social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; and delivery vehicles like newsletters and email lists. You may be surprised to hear that, of these, your email newsletter reigns supreme. In fact, more than 50% of marketers say this is still their most effective channel for gathering inbound leads. Emails with smart subject lines are key to getting those desired clicks. While owned media gives you maximum content control at a great price, it typically starts off lacking credibility and takes some time to scale.